Brethren schools given millions

Victoria, Australia - A TINY school campus at Bendigo in Victoria run by the controversial Exclusive Brethren religious sect is receiving $1.2 million in federal funding to upgrade its library despite having just 11 primary students last year.

Documents also show another Exclusive Brethren campus at Swan Hill - which has just 16 primary school students - received $800,000 for a school hall under the schools building program.

Critics say the allocation of funds provides a stark example of the poor targeting of taxpayer money under the so-called Building the Education Revolution program, which has been dogged by allegations of rorting and mismanagement.

The Australian Education Union has also called on the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to justify funding a school run by the Exclusive Brethren - which Mr Rudd, in opposition, branded an ''extremist cult'' that broke up families.

Under the schools building program, begun in February last year to create jobs, schools of between one and 50 students are eligible for up to $250,000 in funding. However, because the Exclusive Brethren designates new schools as campuses of existing schools, it was able to secure $2 million in funding for projects at just two of the 12 campuses of the Glenvale School - at Bendigo and Swan Hill.

A government document posted on the Federal Parliament website yesterday, in response to a question from the Greens, said the Glenvale School's Bendigo campus was receiving $1.2 million for a library refurbishment, which would be completed by April 30.

According to the 2009 census, that campus had 11 primary students and 42 secondary students.

A spokesman for the Exclusive Brethren, John Anderson, said that it was not relevant how many students attended the Bendigo campus.

He also said the $1.2 million would be spent at several Glenvale School campuses in Victoria, which were attended by about 600 students.